by LUIS G. JALANDONI
Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel Oslo
15 February 2011
State Secretary Espen Barth Eide, Deputy Director General Tomas Stangeland, Ambassadors Ture Lundh and Knut Solem, and other members of the Royal Norwegian Government facilitation team, Fredrik Steen, Lisa Golden, Aina Holm and Ida Marstein.
Secretary Teresita Deles, Chairperson of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process of the Government of the Philippines (GPH), formerly known as the GRP, Atty. Alexander A. Padilla, Chairperson of the GPH Negotiating Panel, members of the GPH Negotiating Panel Atty. Pablito Sanidad, Mr. Ednar Dayanghirang, Ms. Maria Lourdes Tison, Ms. Jurgette Malonzo, and the other members of the GPH delegation.
We in the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel wish to warmly greet and convey our heartfelt thanks to the Royal Norwegian Government for its determined and painstaking efforts as Third Party Facilitator in working for this very significant resumption of formal peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP.
We are confident that we can advance in the peace negotiations by adhering to The Hague Joint Declaration and subsequent agreements. We must be guided by mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice, and that no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations. We must address the roots of the armed conflict and arrive at comprehensive agreements on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms in order to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace for the benefit of our people.
After more than six years, the formal talks are resumed today. We are pleased that during the preliminary talks, Chairperson Alex Padilla declared that the GPH does not consider the CPP, NPA and NDFP terrorist organizations. We hold the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government accountable for sabotaging the peace talks by acceding to or lobbying foreign governments to label and vilify the revolutionary forces of the Filipino people as ”terrorists” and to submit the internal affairs of the Philippines as subject to the sovereignty of such foreign governments, by speciously suspending the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) in order to level false criminal charges against the panellists, consultants and staffers of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, turning the list of JASIG-protected persons or Document of Identification (DI) holders into an arrest list and causing their illegal arrest, abduction, torture, disappearance and murder; and by undermining or reneging on its commitments to other valid and binding agreements.
The Arroyo regime perpetrated gross and systematic human rights violations not only against the NDFP and the revolutionary movement but also against a broad range of legal social activists.
It systematically perpetrated more than one thousand two hundred extrajudicial killings, hundreds of frustrated killings, more than two hundred involuntary disappearances, numerous cases of torture, and the uprooting of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of civilians. It also used the notorious Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), under the rabid militarist National Security Adviser, Norberto Gonzales, to file trumped-up charges and cause the imprisonment of hundreds of political prisoners.
Now, after more than six years of sabotage of the peace talks and invalid suspension of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) by the Arroyo regime, we stand at the threshold of a new beginning. It is imperative that the two negotiating parties do away with the transgressions, gore and filth of the previous regime and pave the way for accelerated and fruitful negotiations.
The gross violations and disregard of the agreements signed by both Parties underscore the need for both to reaffirm all previous peace agreements painstakingly forged by them. It is imperative to uphold and defend the validity and binding character of these agreements and commit ourselves to respect them and comply with their wise and equitable provisions so that we can move forward in our striving to achieve a just and lasting peace in our country.
The Arroyo regime’s more than six-year invalid suspension of the JASIG has to be definitively erased with a firm compliance with the JASIG so as to guarantee the safety and immunity of all personnel of both Parties who are involved in the peace negotiations. The abduction, illegal detention, disappearance, torture and murder of NDFP consultants and staffers must be subjected to investigation, and justice must be rendered to the victims. Past and continuing violations of the JASIG have to be rectified.
We are happy to have with us NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) members Rafael Baylosis and Randall Echanis. Their presence is concrete proof of the efficacy and respect for the JASIG. We continue to expect that the GPH work on the immediate lifting of the arrest warrants and the withdrawal or dismissal of charges against them, including NDFP political consultant Vicente Ladlad. We hope that the JASIG-protected and DI holders recently arrested under the Aquino administration are immediately released. We refer to Danilo Badayos, Pedro Codaste, Edwin Brigano, Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara, and now Alan Jazmines.
The expeditious release of other NDFP Consultants and JASIG-protected persons in compliance with the JASIG as well as in the spirit of goodwill or for humanitarian reasons is being facilitated by the GPH Negotiating Panel, with Atty. Pablito Sanidad kindly accepting the responsibility and enjoying the confidence of his chairperson for seeing to it that JASIG is effectively applied in order to foster the peace talks.
The long suspension by the Arroyo regime stopped the initial negotiations on social and economic reforms (SER). Only parts of the Preamble and Declaration of Principles could be agreed upon.
Now there is an even more compelling need for accelerated and sustained negotiations on this second item in the substantive agenda in view of the much worsened social and economic conditions. Both Negotiating Panels have expressed their firm commitment to carry this out through their respective Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs). The target of six months is being set for the RWCs-SER to draw up the Tentative Agreement on SER.
We urge the reciprocal working committees to have a common resolve to uphold economic sovereignty, conserve the national patrimony for the benefit of our own people, promote economic development through land reform and national industrialization, improve the people’s livelihood and develop equitable trade and economic relations with other countries. In this context, there is no insurmountable difficulty for the reciprocal working committees to draft a tentative agreement that describes and critiques the social and economic status quo, and recommends the necessary reforms for separate and joint implementation until there is a Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms.
In the spirit of further accelerating the peace negotiations, both Parties have agreed to prepare in advance for the negotiations of the Reciprocal Working Committees on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR) through working groups on PCR. Our Chief Political Consultant, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, and Atty. Pablito Sanidad will lead the discussions regarding the concept and formation of the working groups on PCR. Prof. Sison will be assisted by Fidel Agcaoili, Elizabeth Principe as consultant, and Dr. Carol P. Araullo as resource person. The working groups on PCR prepare the ground for the setting up of the Reciprocal Working Committees on PCR. While this mechanism helps to accelerate the peace negotiations, the RWC Agreement of 1995 and the Supplemental Agreement thereto of 1997 are respected.
At this resumption of formal talks, there will also be the highly significant reconvening of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) which has not been able to meet since June 2004. Although the Joint Secretariat has functioned with the support of the Royal Norwegian Government by receiving complaints, conducting training seminars and issuing publications, among others, the Arroyo regime prevented the JMC’s full operationalization as mandated by the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) by prohibiting its GRP Monitoring Committee from meeting with the NDFP Monitoring Committee.
We expect that in reaffirming the CARHRIHL, the release of about 350 political prisoners will be effectively undertaken. We are glad that, during the preliminary talks, the GPH Negotiating Panel expressed sympathy and support for the release of the political prisoners. They deserve to be released like the 400 military prisoners for having been victims of false charges and political persecution, and for having struggled against the unjust Arroyo regime. We are cognizant of the persevering efforts of human rights associations, various mass organizations and social movements in the Philippines and abroad, and some members of the Senate and House of Representatives, in seeking a principled amnesty for the political prisoners.
As stated in the Oslo Joint Statement of 2004, the Parties agree that the release of prisoners and detainees is a continuing confidence building measure, motivated by a mutual desire to improve the atmosphere for peace negotiations, and is a benign act of magnanimity. At the same time, it is in compliance with an obligation arising from the CARHRIHL which states that all prisoners and detainees charged with common crimes, detained, or convicted contrary to the GPH Hernandez doctrine should be released immediately. (Part III, Respect for Human Rights, Article 6).
We participate enthusiastically and conscientiously in the resumption of formal talks. We are resolved to do everything we can to make these talks succeed and move us forward towards forging fundamental social, economic, political and constitutional reforms that will address the roots of the armed conflict and be of lasting benefit to the Filipino people. We are glad that both Parties have agreed to a unilateral, concurrent and reciprocal ceasefire as a goodwill and confidence building measure to mark the resumption of formal talks after so many years. We consider such ceasefire a highly significant token and signal of our common desire to advance in the peace negotiations and make up for the lost years during the Arroyo regime.
Without prejudice to the established track of the peace negotiations, the NDFP has offered to the GPH a proposal for a concise agreement for an immediate just peace as the basis of alliance and truce for strengthening national independence, empowering the people and realizing the industrial development of the Philippines. This NDFP offer is a challenge to the Aquino regime to release itself from the dictates of US imperialism, especially the already bankrupt neoliberal economic policy and the futile US Counterinsurgency Guide, and to come to terms with the NDFP proposal for alliance and truce in order to strengthen national independence and carry out national industrialization.
The concurrence of the political wills of the GPH and NDFP along the patriotic and progressive line can bring about just peace and development for our people.